Peace in Aceh

Today, a year ago in Helsinki, Finland, the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement, better known as GAM, took the brave and constructive initiative to sign a Memorandum of Understanding.

Peace in Aceh

Today, a year ago in Helsinki, Finland, the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement, better known as GAM, took the brave and constructive initiative to sign a Memorandum of Understanding bringing an end to nearly 30 years of continuous armed conflict in Aceh. On that very same day, Aug. 15, 2005, monitors from the member states of the European Union (EU) and five Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries started their work in Aceh to oversee the implementation of the framework peace agreement on the ground.

It is with great happiness and pride that today we celebrate this anniversary together with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the newly returned GAM leader Malik Mahmood in a peaceful, secure and stable Banda Aceh, in the spirit of the Helsinki agreement and with great hopes for the future of the people of Aceh. Just under eight months ago, a more heart-rending event was commemorated in Aceh. The December 2004 tsunami was an unprecedented disaster which left more than 160.000 dead and missing and many more in grief and despair. With this tragedy in mind it is even more rewarding to be part of such a successful peace process.

Even though the first contacts between the parties had already taken place when the tsunami struck, the disaster brought something good with it: a political will to leave old grievances behind and join forces in the necessary reconstruction process and the creation of a common and sustainable future for the people of Aceh. It has been stated before, but it is essential to reiterate the intimate link that exists between reconstruction and the peace process: without security and political stability the continued rebuilding of the Acehnese society and economy would be extremely difficult. Conversely, reintegration of former GAM combatants is helped along by the massive reconstruction effort in Aceh.

In addition to the tsunami, other factors have equally contributed to the success we are celebrating today. The commitment of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla to the process has been commendable. Since their election in September 2004 they have been promoting a reformist agenda, with a willingness to restructure the economy, modernize the military and devolve powers to the regions. They proclaimed during their election campaign their readiness to settle the Aceh conflict once and for all and, after taking office, courageously decided to do so through a negotiated solution and with international support. On its side, GAM has throughout the process shown its sincerity to fully end the armed struggle. GAM is now in the process of transforming into a democratic political movement. Its leadership has returned from exile as a further sign of confidence between the parties. Under these circumstances, when the parties are committed and honest in their intentions, it is a grateful task to be a negotiator and a facilitator.

There is a distinct optimism prevailing that the peace process is irreversible. There has been a solid backing of this process from the international community. The EU and the five participating ASEAN countries have put their full political weight behind the implementation of the peace agreement. Even before the ink had dried on the peace accord in Helsinki, and at the invitation of the Government of Indonesia with the full support of the GAM leadership, the two regional actors, in a mutually reinforcing cooperation, deployed monitors. Once a peace agreement has been reached it is crucial to be able to deploy quickly. The Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) filled a potentially harmful vacuum through its one-month Initial Monitoring Presence phase and at the same time gave a clear signal of the international community's firm commitment towards supporting the Aceh peace process. The mission has since gained the confidence of both the parties and civil society through its even-handedness, neutrality and transparency.

The EU and the five participating ASEAN countries looked closely at the situation before accepting the Government of Indonesia's invitation. There were risks that had to be identified and mitigated, but we were optimistic and felt that we could not lose this opportunity to be part of a lasting solution to the conflict in Aceh. The Memorandum of Understanding, crafted under the auspices of Crisis Management Initiative throughout the spring and summer of 2005, has helped the parties as well as the AMM to take the peace process forward.

Peace has now returned to Aceh and the Indonesian Parliament has recently enacted a new Law on the Governing of Aceh that will constitute a firm basis on which Aceh can exercise authority over its own affairs, in close cooperation with the central government and within the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. Peace consolidation is a long term process. Even though the EU will continue to support the peace process for the foreseeable future, the time has come for AMM to begin to withdraw its immediate presence. From Sept. 15 the AMM will start to hand over with confidence the full ownership of the ongoing reconciliation process to the people of Aceh, with a view to completing its withdrawal immediately after the local elections.

Source: The Jakarta Post

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16